How to Insert Page Numbers on Master Pages in Adobe InDesign

Simplify numbering a lengthy document using automatic numbering

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When you're working on a document such as a magazine or book with many pages in it, using the master page feature in Adobe InDesign CC 2015 to insert automatic page numbering simplifies working with the document. On a master page, you designate the position, font and size of the page numbers and any additional text you want to accompany the numbers such as the magazine name, date or the word "Page." Then that information appears on every page of the document along with the correct page number.

As you work, you can add and remove pages or rearrange entire sections and the numbers remain accurate.

Adding Page Numbers to a Master Page

  • After opening an InDesign document, click Pages in the column at the far right of the screen to open the Pages panel.
  • Double-click the master spread or master page icon that you plan to apply to your document. The master page icons are located at the top of the Pages panel and the document page icons are located beneath.
  • Use the Type tool in the tool bar at the left of the screen to draw a text box on the master page in the approximate position where you want the numbers to appear. Make the text frame long enough to contain the longest line that will appear there.
  • If your document contains spreads, draw separate text frames for the left and right master pages.
  • Use the Selection tool to fine-tune the placement of the text boxes that hold the page numbers.
  • In the text box, type any text that will accompany the number, such as the publication name or date.
  • Position the insertion point where you want the page number to appear and then choose Type in the menu bar followed by Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number. A placeholder appears on the master page in place of the number.
  • Format the page number marker and any accompanying text that appears before or after the page number marker. Select a font and size or surround the page number with decorative dashes or symbols, the word "Page," the publication title, or chapter and section headings.

Applying the Master Page to a Document

To apply the master page with the automatic numbering to the document pages, go to the Page panel. Apply a master page to a single page by dragging the master page icon to a page icon in the Pages panel. When a black rectangle surrounds the page, release the mouse button. 

To apply a master page to a spread, drag the master page icon to a corner of the spread in the Pages panel. When a black rectangle appears around the correct spread, release the mouse button.

You have a couple of options when you want to apply a master spread to multiple pages.

  • Select the pages that you want to contain page numbers in the Pages panel. Press Alt in Windows or Option in MacOS as you click a master page or spread. 
  • You can accomplish the same thing by clicking Apply Master To Pages in the Pages panel menu, selecting a master and entering the pages numbers you want to apply the master to in the Apply Master pop-up window.

    Return to your document by clicking any page icon in the Pages panel and verify the numbering looks like you planned it.


    • Elements on the master page are visible but not editable on the document pages. You'll see actual page numbers on the document.
    • To create different numbering schemes for sections of your document you use the Section Marker command. 
    • If you don't want the first page of your document to be numbered, drag the [None] master page to the first page icon in the Pages panel after the numbering has been applied.